The Caste System

The Lower Castes – The Peons, Lowlife, and other Outwallers

  • The lowest of the castes are the beggars, thieves, orphans and marked criminals. Members of these groups as a whole are regarded as less than true persons in the eyes of the law. They are offered nearly no protections under the law, but are subject to numerous requirements by it. Publicly berating or even beating of a member of these classes is common, though killing one is considered a misdemeanor and subject to a small fine if not properly justified. With the exception of a few members of the clergy, most freemen shun this group to avoid losing what status they have.

    - The beggars and thieves, however, have found some means of defense from their station – by the formation of unrecognized, but still politically potent guilds, these groups have made a space for respite from the oppression that surrounds them and have provided a means to elevate one’s position in society. Typically, these guilds will demand 10 to 60% of the ‘take’ from their members, depending on the member’s rank within the guild. It is rumored that some of the upper ranks of these guilds have gone on to live in-wall, or even attained seats of influence within the government. The Beggars’ Union and the thieves’ guilds of the city often find themselves at odds with one another, and have been known to have sometimes violent territory disputes in the lower Outwall regions of town, particularly in the poorest area, known as Hovelton.
  • The most populist castes are the serfs, indentured servants, and peasants. These three groups account for 50-60% of the Duchy’s population. Most are simple, hard-working folk, who live to serve their respective masters and live hard, thankless lives. In times of war, it is typically this class that serves as the bulk of the frontline ground troops, and tends to suffer the most casualties. None of these groups is permitted to possess weapons of war (though it’s remarkable how effective a pitchfork or shovel can suffice in a pinch.)

    - Serfs are bound to work the land upon which they live to the service of their respective Liege Lord, and are considered to be property of that Lord. Most do so from birth to the grave, never moving more than a league or two from their homestead, serving whatever Lord holds the territory they reside in.
    - Indentured Servants were often once of a higher social class, but through the justice of the land, have been reduced to the level of property, in recompense for some wrong-doing, real or imagined to a noble or prominent citizen.
    - Peasants are those without land-ties, usually working as tradesmen or manual laborers in the city or surrounding towns and villages, or as servants for their social superiors. Many peasants aspire to be freemen one day, though few ever achieve this as the pressures of taxation and social ranking discourage the rise to true citizenship.

The Middle Castes – The Freeman and the Citizen

  • The middle castes are comprised of two overlapping groups, each with its own subsets. The first and generally less distinguished of the two is the title of Freeman. A Freeman’s main advantages over their lower-class counterparts are: the ability to own property and weapons, the ability to move freely in the outwall and mid-wall areas, and ability to seek legal redress of grievances. However, owning property within either wall is still generally out of reach.

    - Freemen typically work as skilled laborer, artisans, clergymen, craftsmen, and merchants. Soldiers in the Guard are automatically granted Freeman status. Scouts, explorers and adventurers (or Travelers as they’re sometimes known) are generally also considered Freemen under the law.
    - Often, Freemen belong to one or more guildhouses or unions.
  • The second, more influential of the middle castes, is the Citizen.

    - Citizenship can only be granted by the nobles and their appointed representatives. Sometimes this is granted by a Lord or Lady or even the Duke, Himself, in reward or recognition of great deeds or accomplishments that benefit the Duchy. This is presumed to be the normal way of attaining this station. The reality however, is that anyone with enough gold can make his way onto the Registry of Citizens, and most gain the title in this fashion.
    - Citizenship amends the benefits of Freeman status with the ability to participate in the committees and commissions of government and vote on public issues of concern.
    - Citizens also may move freely throughout the city, including into the Artisans Quarter, Scholars and Temple Ward, but still may not enter Noble District without invitation. They also have the ability to own property within the mid-wall areas of town.
    - Citizenship is a requirement to be on the ruling council of any guild or to be an officer in the Guard. Any persons of lower rank are required to address a Citizen by the title of Good Sir, Citizen, or their proper trade title. (Womenfolk are generally referred to as Miss, Ma’am, or Madam, depending on apparent age.)

The Upper Castes – High Citizens, Landed and Unlanded Lords, and Nobility

The Upper Castes in the Duchy of Eramitos are the High Citizen, Landed and Unlanded Lords and Ladies, and Nobility.

  • High Citizens are those Citizens who have proved themselves worthy in some manner to dwell amongst the well-to-do and influential who live in-wall. They may own property and hold public office. Most guild-leaders are High Citizens. Advancement to High Citizenship is a political game played by the more affluent citizens, who lobby for favor with the Lords and Ladies. High Citizens have the additional privilege of freely entering the Noble Quarter and may own property in the Artisans Quarter and the Scholars and Temple Ward areas.
  • Landed Lords & Ladies are those who have been granted the title and a fief by the Duke or other Nobility. Being of noble blood is not a requirement for this post, but does play a part in the selection of those most-worthy. Lords may own serfs and indentured servants, collect tithes and taxes from those who live on their held lands, and are required to manage their lands and provide support to their liege in times of war. Holdings are often called Baronies, Dominions, or Counties, depending on the size of the land and the noble ranking of the holder. Lords are always to be held as ‘above the commoner’ in all matters and must be addressed as Mi’Lord or Mi’Lady. ‘Your Lordship’ is used in more formal settings.
  • Unlanded Lords & Ladies are those who have been given the title of Lord or Lady, but not granted a fief. Knighted individuals also qualify as Unlanded Lords. The Generals of the Army, Captain of the Guard, and other high ranking government officials also qualify for this title. Lordship can only be granted by the Duke or his direct representative within the Duchy.
  • Nobility are those born of royal blood, who can trace their bloodline to a current or previous monarch. They are to be held in the highest regard and with the deepest respect at all times. They are considered to be gifted by the gods themselves with great wisdom and ability to rule. The duchy’s current ruler, Duke Stephan Eramitos, is a nephew to the King and considered 4th in-line to the throne of Aeristine.

Other Castes

While the Lower, Middle and Upper Castes noted above comprise around 95% of the area’s population, there are certain other groups who live in their own social order. Some of these stand completely separate from the aforementioned groups, and some cross into and blend with the other castes.

  • The first group, perhaps with the most crossover and intermingling with the other castes, is the Religious caste. As each religious order has its own internal social ladder, there are generally few hard and fast laws concerning the regard and address of members of a particular order. The general rule of etiquette though, is as follows:

    - As the population of the Kingdom of Aeristine tends to be fearful of gods and fairly religious as a whole, the High Priests of any given order are treated with the respect of Nobility. Not even the Duke is immune to the chastisement from his Grace, Terren Liresbeck, the Arch-Bishop of {TBD}, who was the son of serf before he was taken in by the Church.
    - Upper ranked Priests and Paladins of any rank are given status and rights equivalent to Unlanded Lords. They may not, however, hold public office, except within their religious organizations and most tend not to buy property, even though they may, if they wish to.
    - The general clergy are respected as Citizens, and thus have free reign to pass to and from most of the In-wall areas. Several of the formal religions of the city share a building that actually bridges the great wall, allowing them to serve the needs of all the populace. Furthermore, many of the religions operate temples, chapels, and shrines throughout the city to better reach their respective flocks.
    - The lay clergy, acolytes, and other servants of the assorted religions hold freeman status. This is, in fact, the simplest way to rise above peasant status. One caveat – anyone who leaves the service of a religious organization almost always loses this boost in status, particularly if the church is left on bad terms.
    - An exception to the guidelines above exists with respect to those who follow in the ways of any Evil Cult, (as designated by the prominent religious councils.) The Kingdom of Aeristine is no stranger to demon and devil worshipers; dark clerics of death, turmoil and destruction; and psychotic cults prophesying doom and chaos. Members of these orders are considered abominable and monstrous. They rank even below the marked criminals and have no rights under common law. A person openly flaunting membership to a group of this sort is subject to immediate arrest or execution. Good and Righteous folk are careful never to be found associating with one of this ilk.
  • The second group is that of the Outlanders and Foreigners. These are the folks that, by definition, ‘aren’t from around these parts…’

    - Outlanders are those from the less civilized and borderland areas of the Kingdom. The Hill Barbarians clearly fall into this category as do the nomadic Tribes of the Plainsmen. Those who strike it out in the wilderness end up here as well: foresters, hunters, miners, prospectors all are referred to as Outlanders. These folk are usually only seen in the city limits when looking to trade their commodities and crafts for supplies or money. Their perceived social class is usually determined by their garb, manners, and exchequer, though the general perception is that they are crude, rude, rowdy, and sometimes dangerous.
    - Foreigners are those from the strange lands beyond the Kingdoms boundaries. Most common folk tend to shun foreigners as their strange looks and even stranger customs make them seem quite …uh… strange. Though most will go out of their way not to offend one. The majority of Foreigners arrive with caravans from the Southern Realms or the Empire of Eiros, beyond the western mountain ranges. These caravans bring rare and exotic goods from far off lands, usually in exchange for the natural abundance of gemstones mined in the area. A foreigner’s rank within the city, similar to the outlanders, is a matter of perception. It is usually similar to their rank in their home society, but can be adjusted up or down by the stranger’s charisma and charm.

The Caste System

Kingdom of Aeristine SirQwerx